Trade-off: Unlimited data plan vs. tethering capability

Like many other longtime iPhone users, I had been clinging protectively to my unlimited data plan, a legacy plan from AT&T. Unlimited data for $30 a month. What’s not to like?

But I read with interest Chris Pirillo’s story about how and why he let go of the unlimited data security blanket  for his iPhone and chose AT&T’s hotspot plan ($45 a month) instead. While Chris is now limited to 4GB of data transfer a month, he can use his iPhone to create an instant WiFi hotspot for an iPad or laptop. (Chris points out that this saves him having to pay for a data plan for the iPad.)

Chris calculated that he could get by on 4GB of data transfer a month. That motivated me to take a look at my own numbers — which is pretty easy to do.

To check your data usage patterns:

  1. Go to your AT&T wireless account and log in.
  2. Under My Usage Summary, click Analyze Past Usage.
  3. In Create a Report, select as your Report “Data Usage Trend.”
  4. Set the Bill period start date to the first month of your account and the Bill period end date to the current month. Your report will appear in Report View.

My report revealed that I have never used more than 1GB of data transfer in a month. That indicates to me that even if I use the iPhone to extend data services to my MacBook Air (or to the iPad 2 that will arrive…someday), I’m unlikely to hit the 4GB limit.

Now, do I need tethering? Let’s see…I needed it four times in the past week. I ended up gnashing my teeth in three instances when no one had the password for the local WiFi system or I wasn’t willing to pay a hefty fee for a 30 minutes of service. In the fourth instance, my friend Bruce graciously used his phone to tether my MacBook Air.

Once I was ready to make the switch to a tethering plan, I called AT&T (611 from the iPhone) and asked to talk with Customer Service. The switch took less than 30 seconds, and was effective immediately. (I made the switch at home, but realized you could do it  in a situation such as being stuck at an airport, and have your WiFi right then and there.)

Once you have the tethering plan in place, go to Settings > General > Network and toggle Internet Tethering to On. You’ll see instructions for sharing the iPhone’s internet connection via USB or Bluetooth.

About Karen Anderson

To paraphrase Mark Morris, "I'm a writer; I write!"
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Trade-off: Unlimited data plan vs. tethering capability

  1. Alexei K. says:

    Well, if you switch to Verizon iPhone you can get both Unlimited plan and tethering capability for $20 one time payment. It does go against the Verizon’s term but jailbroken iPhone 4 can get app called MyWi from Cydia store to turn iPhone 4 into a hotspot without Verizon’s hotspot plan. With Verizon’s unlimited data plan (also $30) a month, you have unlimited tethering capability without any monthly charge for tethering. But I have to admit AT&T’s 3G network is bit faster than Verizon’s.

  2. Alex says:

    the rate you use data on your phone compared to a computer is bigger than you might think. first off, the amount of data you use viewing a website on your phone is different than a computer. most websites detect what is accessing them and tailor the web page for that browser. that’s why, a web page will look different on a computer vs. Iphone vs. non-smart phone. If you usually use 1gb a month on your phone and then start tethering, you’ll see that you don’t just double your usage, you probably triple it or more. you should download a free program that keeps track of the data flow on your computer before you decide to get rid of your unlimited plan for a 4gb capped tethering plan.

  3. Alex, another factor in the equation is how much of your computer internet use are you going to shift to the iPhone hot spot and how much will continue to be done via usual wifi connections at home and office?
    I’m finding that about 5 days of the month I use the hot spot while the remaining 25 days of the month I use my home wifi or wifi at a client’s office. Thus the hot spot tethering plan needs to handle less than 20% of my total data flow, not replace the full amount.

  4. Jason T says:

    Don’t switch, the evil overlord cellular company’s want us to get rid of our unlimited!
    It’s there evil plan to make us pay more when we go over our data caps! Long live UNLIMITED!!!!! Lol

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s